Each year, 15 percent of K-12 students—a figure totaling eight million students in the United States miss a month of school. “Absenteeism is the primary leading indicator of high school graduation,” says Miriam Altman. Even more sobering is that less than 20 percent of chronically absent students will receive their high school diploma. But where one sees a depressing statistic, Altman and Alexandra Meis, co-founders of Kinvolved, spot a unique opportunity to overcome one of the biggest obstacles to increasing student achievement.
“Kinvolved sprung from the idea of getting ‘kin’ involved in a child’s education—not just families but anyone who cares about that student and their success,” says Meis. Altman and Meis were still students at NYU Wagner when they launched and entered Kinvolved’s digital app for teachers and administrators, KiNVO, at a national policy competition—and won. Today, KiNVO tackles absenteeism through automated attendance-data-based nudges: two-way text messages that are translated into over 80 languages and serve 200,000+ students, families, educators, and administrators across 11 states. It’s an impressive feat that, as Altman points out, “allows districts to equitably reach all families, regardless of the systemic barriers that hinder school engagement and communications.”
So far, Kinvolved’s holistic approach is paying off with impactful results. In 2019 alone, school leaders, parents, and teachers exchanged 30 million messages via KiNVO, and 17 percent of those messages were translated into different languages during the 2019–20 school year. One New York City high school increased their graduation rates by 11 percent and reduced chronic absenteeism by 5 percent within three years of using the digital platform.
Despite launching their edtech company with “no experience in fundraising or building technology,” the duo and their team have raised $4 million and plan to extend Kinvolved’s footprint to all 50 states. “Being laser-focused on providing value for our district partners and solving their problems in an authentic way let's our work speak for itself,” says Altman. “We’re continuously making sure our mission and organization align with our problem statement,” adds Meis, “and that’s closing the equity gap that many schools, students, and families face in the communities we serve.”